I have been reading William Zinsser‘s “Writing About Your Life” which is his memoir alongside his ‘how-to’ write your memoirs.  What a treasure this book has been!  Already I have an idea of the path I’m going to go down which is something I didn’t have before.

It’s overwhelming at first to try and decide what you’re going to write about and if you even have the right to think anyone will care.  But Zinsser’s practical advice has helped me REDUCE.  I know I have some great stories and there are people and places who haunt my mind that I would love to tell the world about.

I was so excited last night as ideas coalesced in my mind….I actually began to write things down, to write names down and situations.  My memory is coming back slowly AND  I have several DOZEN microcassettes with hours of stories on them too.  I have been getting to bed at a good hour for about a week now too.  Can you tell I’m getting serious?

Speaking of getting serious, in regards to making sure I manage my time better, I also sent out a notice to all my Toastmasters that I will not be carrying our little club next year.  I spelled out exactly what I would do, which is be our Sergeant at Arms next year.   That entails coming half an hour before every meeting and setting up, and taking down afterwards, making sure the club has the supplies it needs and buying the weekly snacks.  I also volunteered to do the occassional mentorship.  I will do absolutely no more than that.  This is about making sure I am not taking care of everyone else and making sure I am taking care of my needs which is why I came to Toastmasters in the first place.  It felt pretty liberating to put it out there to eveyone I’ll tell you.

Our club has been struggling mightily this year and for the most part 3 of us have carried the entire club which exhausted us.  It wasn’t much fun either.  My beloved Toastmasters wasn’t so beloved anymore.  In fact I began to become resentful about it.  A few weeks ago I was freaking out, thinking ‘what will we do if the club folds?’  But I have let it go.  I really have.  I truly hope it doesn’t happen but I am at peace with whatever happens now.  Saving Sunshine Toastmasters is not my responsibility.  I remember my mentor telling us once that we should serve for a year, and then take a year for ourselves, serve a year, take a year for ourselves.  Well, I have been serving for 4 years straight.  I am willing to continue to serve in a hugely reduced capacity IF the club can meet my needs.  If it can’t, it might be time for me to move on.  I can hardly believe I’m saying this but, as I said, I am at peace with whatever happens.

In the meantime, I’m still the President and I am still going to serve out my term with enthusiasm and with my best effort.  We are putting on an Epic Storytelling Event next Monday and we have invited people from all over the community to come and see what we are about.  We even got some pre-event press (thanks to me!).  So no, I am not giving up, but I am also not giving more than is wise.  When I see my tank on 1/4 full, I will stop to re-fuel no matter what and no matter how long it takes TO refuel.

this is the new limit

this is the new limit

I can’t deplete my personal resources for a public speaking club, no matter HOW much I love it.   Sending out the energy that others will come along and excitedly see the opportunity for growth!

It’s been 12 days and I have missed writing here.   I have missed writing.  Truth be told, I haven’t had a spare minute to do so and I’m not even sure I do now either but what the hell.  Live dangerously eh?

How is it that life changes so quickly these days? I’ve moved out of “going to Cincinnatti” mode rather quickly and into the “what next?” mode.

What seems to be next is making sure that I am taking care of the important things in my life, like my family.  Continuing with the paternal focus of the past few months, my dad phoned me not long after the contest, in fact it was the day after my last EPIC post, the post where I listed the rewards I have reaped through this 9 month long process.  He asked me how I was doing and how I felt about what I had done.  It was really satisfying to tell him that I was at peace with everything.  The outcome, the rewards, all of it.

And then, he started to say “Well, I went to the doctor the other day….”  and started to tell me a story that we all end up hearing.  As he was talking I thought to myself “WTF???  Dad’s telling me that something is wrong with him….”  It did not compute.  I backed up from my brain as I listened and someone in my body started to cry and then tried to STOP crying and listened to my dad tell me ever so coolly and calmly that he has asbestosis and that “I imagine it will be my demise.”  (‘How incredibly fucking BRITISH is that statement?’  I thought.  ‘How stiff upper lip is THAT?  Is that not the epitome of all that is England????’)

I couldn’t believe it and I didn’t know what to say.  I just didn’t know what to say.  They don’t know how much time he has and I was afraid to ask because it’s just such a horrible question.  He’s not set to see a specialist for 3 months though so it can’t be that acute yet, Canadian health delays and all.

His older brother died of the same thing.  Manufacturing.  My dad worked at Ford for decades.  Breathing that shit in.  Working for his family.  Hell, he left England for the opportunity to do so.  It takes decades for the disease to manifest and now it has.  And I’ve not thought about it too often yet.  It doesn’t seem like a real thing.

I was on the ferry last week and I came across this book.  It was called “Dear Dad  –  from you to me  -journal of a lifetime”.  I picked it up and looked inside of it.  It has about 150 blank pages but at the top of each page there is a question like “What were your favourite childhood games?”  and “How did you meet my Mother?”  and “What do you like best about me?”  My heart started to go faster.   I thought “I have to get this for Dad.  I need to know these things.”

I felt panicked almost and then I started to cry, right there in the ferry gift shop.  My thought finished itself even though I tried to stop it. “I need Dad to do this because one day he won’t be here.  Like I always knew would happen.  Like I thought would be a very long time from now.”

But now it’s real.

When Dad asked me what I would be doing next, I told him I felt like it was time for me to write.  “I always thought that you would write a book Paula.”  Dad said.  He has said that to me more than once.

So that’s what I’m doing.  I’m writing a book.  I haven’t started the actual writing yet for God’s sake, but I am preparing for it.  This month is insanity-level-busy with my daughter’s first communion, three field trips, our newly dead landscaping van and my new cleaning job to pay for our new van.  My efforts to revive our Toastmasters club including a storytelling event for which I am coaching four children…etc.  My level of stupidity is just staggering sometimes.  I’m not taking on another damned thing after this month because I have MORE IMPORTANT SHIT TO DO DAMMIT!!!!

So that is what’s next.  I’ll finish the book I am reading now (Parenting with love and logic) because it needs to be read and retained.

After that, I have ordered two books that are going to help me with my story.  The first book is a memoir AND a how to write a memoir called “Writing About Your Life: A Journey Into The Past”  by the great writer William Zinsser.  This will satisfy the writer in me.

Cover of "Writing About Your Life: A Jour...

Cover via Amazon

The second is “The Message of You” by Judy Carter (former comedian, now public speaker).  This is a how to turn your life story into a money making speaking career.  This will satisfy the comedian and speaker in me.

The rest I will put out there for God to take care of as He always does, even when my faith is weak as it is now.   I need to remember what to pray for.  I need to remember to pray, period.